Lakeland’s new backyard hangout spot off of Massachusetts Ave. had their grand opening on November 22. What exactly is The Yard on Mass? A backyard party, food truck park, beer garden, bar, event space? All of the above said one of The Yard’s founders, Jenn Batts.
Jenn, her husband Joel Batts, along with Craig Morby and Matt Patrick are the minds behind The Yard on Mass. Jenn and Joel Batts were born and raised in Lakeland and were good friends with Craig Morby before moving away 15 years ago. The family lived in Boulder, Colorado where they met their friend and pastor, Matt Patrick. Patrick had the idea for food truck park/ beer garden space referred to as “Boulder’s Backyard,” The Rayback Collective.
Patrick and the Batts put together a team to open the Rayback Collective. It took them two and a half years and over 72 hours of city council meetings according to Jenn. The Collective celebrated its 3rd anniversary in July.
Friends and family who visited them in Boulder loved the concept and asked the Batts if they were going to open a version of the Rayback Collective in Lakeland when they moved back. It made sense to them to bring that community, backyard party vibe to Lakeland.
It has been about a year in the works and Batts expressed that they couldn’t have done it without the diligent work and partnership of MADE, Springer Construction, KCMH Architects and the Lakeland CRA.
“Think more German beer garden, not English pub,” said Batts. The open concept is similar to ART/ifact next door and was even designed by the same architect, John Kirk. Natural light floods through spacious windows into a 2600 square-feet open concept with stained concrete floors and unfinished rafters. “It’s a fun, modern industrial space,” said Batts. The bar seats 18 and the indoor capacity is about 100, she explained. The Yard on Mass is “mezzanine ready” according to Batts. They are projected to finish the 1000 square foot mezzanine, which will be available to be rented out, next summer.
“We want to make this a very hospitality-driven, less service-oriented [space]. I want you to feel like you’re coming to a backyard party,” said Batts. The Yard on Mass Food Truck Coordinator, Heather Suttle agreed, adding. “It’s a nice place to hang out and spend the day with your friends. You can eat, you can drink, your kids can play. It’s your one-stop-shop.”
A rotation of food trucks will be in The Yard seven days a week, with a separate lunch and dinner shift (with some trucks opting to pull double shifts). The founders contracted with different Central Florida food trucks to provide everything from southern cooking to Mexican, hotdogs, and Italian food. “They are a great group that we want to see all of their success,” said Batts. At the time we spoke with Batts in early November, 13 food trucks were contracted with The Yard. A few familiar names include The Kitchen, Italian Scallion, Cuban B’s, Spontaneous Consumption, La Palapa Time, and Hot Diggity Dawgs.
Inside, they will have beer, wine, and four seasonal batched cocktail offerings. “We’re not a shelf bar. We are looking for more of a family-friendly environment, but also fun for all ages,” said Batts. “That’s the plan – to start with our kegged cocktails and roll out our cocktail program a little slower.” The Yard is partnering with Grove Roots Brewing Co. and Swan Brewing to have a few local beers on tap.
The concept of The Yard on Mass is for guests to grab a drink at the bar, food from one of the food trucks, and enjoy it wherever you like. “We want you to wander and enjoy the space,” said Batts.
The Yard will have an assortment of yard games, sports playing on their televisions, a designated area with games and activities for kids (though they are welcome anywhere in the space), as well as frequent events, concerts, and markets. The Yard’s first event was a ticketed concert to Van Plating on November 15. They have a market scheduled for holiday shopping in December and Batts is working with Elizabeth Hults, the Executive Director for ART/ifact to put together “Drink and Draw” events.
Batts says she looks forward to continuing to partner with their neighbors, Parker Street Ministries, Gospel Inc., and Talbot House for charity events. The co-founder says she is also looking forward to developing entrepreneurs. “A concept that we have kicked around is having a food truck that is ‘The Yard food truck’ that stays onsite and will act kind of like an incubator kitchen,” said Batts.
“There’s nothing better than sitting around a table and gathering with others, and that’s what we’re most excited about – the community aspect,” she said. “It’s good to come back and give back to the community that was so good to us.”
The Yard on Mass
802 N. Massachusetts Ave., Lakeland